The icon of the Mother of God “The Blessed Womb” (Bargradkaya, Barlovskaya, Barbarskaya) is a wonderworking icon that was formerly housed in the Annunciation Cathedral at the Moscow Kremlin. The icon’s name is derived from the first lines of the Gospel according to Luke: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked” (Luke, 11: 27). According to a handwritten account dating back to 1714 – 1716, the icon was transferred in 1392 to Moscow from “the city of Bar, a district in Rome,” where it had been placed on the tomb of Nicholas the Wonderworker; its board was made of “various wonderful pieces of wood.” In the 1680 Perepisnaya kniga (book of records) from the Annunciation Cathedral at the Moscow Kremlin and later inventories and sources of the 19th – early 20th centuries the icon was referred to as as “Barlovskaya”, a misspelled form of the word “Bargradskaya”, which in turn is derived from the city of Bari. In some of the 19th – early 20th century editions “The Blessed Womb” icon is referred to as being different wonderworking icons. In the late 14 century “The Blessed Womb” was encased in a precious oklad (which survived on a copy of a late 16th century icon, located in the Armory at the Moscow Kremlin). “The Blessed Womb” icon was located at the Annunciation Cathedral until 1924, its further fate still remains unknown.

“The Blessed Womb” is an iconographic variant of the Mother of God the Milk-Feeder. Its distinctive feature is a depiction of the Mother of God seated on a pillow on the ground. The Child Christ rests on the Holy Virgin’s arms (right), nestling up on Her breast; the palm of his right hand holds on to His Mother’s breast. N.P.Kondakov and N.P.Likhachev saw in the icon the influence of Italian and Greek art.

There are three copies of the “The Blessed Womb” icon, in which the Mother of God’s position, untypical of the Russian icons, was done with less precision. The first copy had been executed in the late 16th century and was possibly intended to be housed in the Novodevichy Monastery (it was encased in an ancient oklad); in 1927 it was transferred to the Armory. It is the most precise copy of the wonderworking icon in terms of the composition and dimensions (52.2 x 40 cm). The second copy a pyadnichny (palm-sized) icon (32 x 27 cm) of the second half of the 16th – late 17th centuries had been placed in the pyadnichny tier of the iconostasis at the Annunciation Cathedral (now exhibited at the southern gallery). It depicts the Mother of God seated on a throne, dressed in an omophorion without stars. The third copy, a palm-sized icon (32.5 x 28 cm) from the diaconicum of the Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery in Suzdal, was executed by Ioann Avksentyev in 1664 (now located in the Vladimiro-Suzdal Museum). The icon is inscribed with a history of the icon’s creation but is mistakenly named Khabarovskaya.

The feast of “The Blessed Womb” icon falls on January 8 (December 26, O.S.).

Zhanna G. Belik,

Ph.D. in Art history, senior research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum, custodian of the tempera painting collection.

Olga E. Savchenko,

research fellow at the Andrei Rublyov Museum.


  1. Щенникова Л.А. Блаженное Чрево // Православная энциклопедия. Том V. М., 2002. С. 346–347.
  2. Кондаков Н.П. Иконография Богоматери. СПб., 1914 – 1915. В 2-х Т.
  3. Кондаков Н.П. Иконография Богоматери: Связи греческой и русской иконописи с итальянской живописью раннего Возрождения. СПб., 1910.
  4. Лихачев Н.П. Историческое значение итало-греческой живописи. СПб., 1911.
  5. Поселянин Е. Богоматерь. Полное иллюстрированное описание Ее земной жизни и посвященных Ее имени чудотворных икон. СПб., 1909.
  6. Мартынова М.В. Оклад иконы «Богоматерь Млекопитательница» из собрания Музеев Московского Кремля // Древнерусское искусство. М., 1984.
  7. Щенникова Л.А. Чудотворные иконы Московского Кремля // Христианские реликвии. С. 234.
  8. Быкова М.А. Икона «Богоматерь Блаженное чрево» («Хабаровская») из собрания Владимиро-Суздальского музея-заповедника // Искусство христианского мира. М., 2002. Вып. 5. С. 179–184.